Thursday, July 12, 2018

Political Leaders of the Chickasaws, 1830s-1987

The map above is Indian Territory, 1885. (Click on the map for a much larger view). The Chickasaw Nation was located in what is now South-Central Oklahoma.

The following is a chronological list of the Chiefs and Governors of the Chickasaw Nation, followed by a brief discussion, with notes, and set of questions I still have. (The numbers in parentheses indicate pertinent collections in the Western History Collections at OU, according to the printed guide by Kristina Southwell). I welcome your comments and ideas:

Era of the Chiefs

??-1839    George Colbert, Chickasaw Chief
??-1840s   Ishtehotopa, "king" of the Chickasaw
1844-46   Isaac Alberson, Chickasaw Chief
1846-48   James McLaughlin, Chickasaw Chief
1848-50   Edmund Pickens, Chickasaw Chief
1850-56   Daugherty Colbert, Chickasaw Chief


1856-58   Cyrus Harris (635, 698)
1858-60   Daugherty Winchester Colbert (317)
1860-62   Cyrus Harris
1862-64   Daugherty Winchester Colbert
1864-66   Daugherty Winchester Colbert
1866-68   Cyrus Harris
1868-70   Cyrus Harris
1870-71   W. P. Brown
1871-72   Thomas J. Parker (1185)
1872-74   Cyrus Harris
1874-76   Benjamin Franklin Overton (1174)
1876-78   Benjamin Franklin Overton
1878-80   Benjamin Crooks Burney (200)
1880-82   Benjamin Franklin Overton
1881        Hickeyubbee, acting governor
1882-84   Benjamin Franklin Overton
1884-86   Jonas Wolf (1643)
1886-88   William M. Guy (604)
1888-90   William Leander Byrd (213)
1890-92   William Leander Byrd
1892-94   Jonas Wolf
1894        Tecumseh A. McClure, acting governor (959)
1894-96   Palmer Mosely (1054)
1896-98   Robert Maxwell Harris (639)
1898-00   Douglas Henry Johnston (698, 790, 898)
1900-02   Douglas Henry Johnston
1902-04   Palmer Mosely
1904-06   Douglas Henry Johnston
1906        Peter Maytubby (Though elected in 1906, he never took office)
1906-39   Douglas Henry Johnston
1939-63   Floyd Maytubby
1963        E. B. "Hugh" Maytubby
1963-87   Overton James


As Muriel H. Wright explains,
Though Ishtehotopa was the "king" of the Chickasaw until his death in the late eighteen forties, the treaty of Doaksville was signed by the Chickasaw chief, George Colbert, who served as such until his death in 1839. Under provisions of this treaty, Chickasaw district chiefs were elected, but were not always in regular attendance at the annual sessions of the Choctaw General Council.[1]
In 1855, the Chickasaws finally established a greater political separation from their brother tribe, the Choctaws. In the years that followed, early electoral contests among the Chickasaws did not feature political parties as such. However, according to Arrell M. Gibson, in the years that followed the Civil War, "two principle partisan associations" emerged. Eventually, these came to be called the National party, typically supported by "full bloods," and the Progressive party, typically supported by "mixed bloods."[2]

Prior to the 1880s, the two parties agreed that "preserving the Chickasaw way of life and protecting tribal property" were central goals.[3] The main differences between to the two parties revolved around questions of political and legal strategy. But, again according to Gibson, by the mid-1880s, that unity began to dissolve. As he explains,
The full bloods became aroused at the pervasive changes occurring in their nation--rapid economic development dominated by outsiders, growth of the non-Indian community, and appropriation of vast tracts of the tribal domain by mixed bloods and non-citizens to form towns, farms, and ranches. The full bloods reacted by committing their National party to a program of checking railroad expansion, turning back the tide of immigration, purging their government of "white" Indian (the intermarried citizen) influence, and generally preserving the surviving old ways.[4]
Thus, a political scene developed in which the tribal traditionalists of the National party advanced what they called a "pullback program," while members of the Progressive party advanced what looked like inevitable change, the "modernization" of the tribe.[5]

Strong feelings and radical action characterized the political battle that ensued. The tension came to a head in the governor's race of 1886. That year, William L. Byrd, a mixed blood who nonetheless supported the position of the full bloods, was the National party's candidate for governor. His opponent, the Progressive party candidate, was William M. Guy. Voting was so evenly divided, officials found it impossible to declare a winner. This required the legislature to decide the outcome. They were about as divided as their constituents. Guy prevailed by a single vote.

True to the Progressive platform, Governor Guy negotiated a plan that permitted the Santa Fe railway to construct a line through the Chickasaw Nation. To supporters of the National party, this amounted to sacrilege. In an attempt to gain control of the executive branch, in 1888, Byrd ran against Guy a second time. That election turned out to be even more contentious than the race two years before. Once the votes were tallied, officials declared Guy the victor. Dissatisfied, leaders of the National party challenged the count in certain precincts. After investigating the matter, the Chickasaw legislature rejected a significant number of ballots, and named Byrd the winner.

At that juncture, Sam Paul, head of the Chickasaw light horse police and a Guy supporter, marched his men on the capital and ordered the legislature to reconsider. That body retracted its verdict, Byrd and his supporters quietly departed Tishomingo, and Guy ostensibly became the accepted chief executive. But as soon as the light horse evacuated Tishomingo, the National party returned, took control of the government, and installed Byrd as governor.[6] "Reported Assassination of W. M. Guy," a newspaper story published on November 15, 1888, reveals just how serious these events were:
Chickasaw Troubles.--The reported assassination of Governor Guy in the Chickasaw nation is disputed, but the latest information is to the effect that the attempt so aroused his friends that over 300 of them, heavily armed, gathered at Tishomingo Monday to protect him. Bird [sic], with 200 armed men is also in camp near the capital, and unless the United States interfere it was thought a battle would occur Tuesday night. It is said Guy's forces would number 700, the non-citizens having espoused his case against the Byrd party.[7]
This episode set the tone for the remaining years of the Chickasaw Nation prior to Oklahoma statehood in 1907. Mistrust, rancor, and division ruled the last two decades.

A side note: As the list indicates, Peter Maytubby was elected governor in 1906, yet never took office. Muriel Wright explains that this was the case because "Congress, on April 26, 1906, provided for the continuance of the 'present tribal governments'." For this reason, Douglas H. Johnston remained in office.[8]


[1] Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951), 96.

[2] Arrell M. Gibson, The Chickasaws (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971), 298.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 299.

[7] This article appeared in Indian Chieftain, published from Vinita, I. T., November 15, 1888. A typescript is located in the University of Oklahoma's Western History Collections, William M. Guy Collection, folder 9.

[8] Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma, 95.


What were the circumstances under which Hickeyubbee served as acting governor in 1881?

What were the circumstances under which T. A. McClure served as acting governor in 1894?

Additional Bibliography

"Past Governors"

Meserve, John Bartlett. "Governor William Leander Byrd." Chronicles of Oklahoma 12, no. 4 (December 1934): 432-33.

Friday, July 06, 2018

El Meta, Lockney, and Hereford: Comparing Three Christian Colleges

One idea I have is to compare the brief careers of three Christian colleges:

El Meta Christian College (later, El Meta Bond College, 1889-1920)
Lockney Christian College (1894-1918)
Hereford Christian College and Industrial School (1902-1912)

Why were these colleges established? How did they get their start? And, why did all they have such short lifespans? Three factors combine to make these schools good candidates for comparison.

Religious Connections

In the first place, all three were private institutions founded by Christians with strong ties to the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. This movement, a powerful impulse on the American religious scene growing out of the Second Great Awaking, eventually gave rise to the Disciples of Christ denomination, the independent Christian Churches, and the Churches of Christ.

Because of their connection to the Restoration Movement, the founders of these schools shared the same vision regarding the purpose and goals of formal education. They inherited this outlook from their religious ancestor Alexander Campbell. Far more than any other person in Restoration history, it was Campbell who shaped the movement's philosophy of education.[1]

For Campbell, education was not an end in itself. Rather, it was a means to an end. The true goal of education was a knowledge of God which, in addition to its eternal benefits, would lead to a morally-sound, well-ordered society, one that would promote human flourishing. According to Campbell's educational philosophy, a person's intellectual growth went hand in hand with his religious and moral development. Ideally, all of these accompanied and aided the other. Education was vital.[2]

For example, writing in the pages of The Millennial Harbinger in 1836, Campbell asserted that whatever a person's natural capacities might be, "without education neither intellectual greatness nor moral goodness can be attained." He went on to say that "it is the primary duty of all parents to educate their children." Naturally, Campbell assumed that parents themselves would serve as their child's first teachers. But, he added, "schools, primary and secondary, or schools and colleges, are the most ancient and useful inventions for this purpose."[3] In an 1856 address, Campbell indicated the significance he assigned to teachers:
I have come to the conclusion that no class of men, in any department of society, have more of the good or evil destiny of the world in their hands and under their influence than the teachers of our schools and colleges."[4]
Campbell's commitment to formal education led him to establish Buffalo Seminary in 1818, the year he turned thirty. He conducted the boarding school in his house. Classes met on the ground floor. Students were housed upstairs. And Campbell and his growing family lived in the basement.[5] As one might guess, this experiment lasted for only a few years (1818-1823). But it must have provided several practical lessons that Campbell was able to put to good use when, in 1840 and '41, he planned and opened Bethany College. Sometimes called the mother of all Disciple colleges, nearly 180 years old, Bethany College is still there.

Time Frame

Another reason why El Meta, Lockney, and Hereford can be compared is that all three operated at roughly the same time. The school known for many years as El Meta Christian College began at Silver City in the Chickasaw Nation in 1889. The next year, almost all of the tiny community of Silver City moved seven miles to the west to be near the railroad, the Chicago Rock, Island and Pacific, which was laying track, extending the line south out of Kansas. Meta Chestnutt and her schoolhouse made up part of of the migration and helped to start a new town they called Minco, which was home to the college until its closing in 1920.

Charles Walker Smith and St. Clair W. Smith, of no relation to one another, established Lockney Christian College in Lockney, Floyd County, Texas, in 1894. The school remained in operation until 1918.

Hereford Christian College and Industrial School in Hereford, Texas, opened its doors in 1902. Randolph Clark, the school's first president, was a co-founder of what is now Texas Christian University. For a few years, the school at Hereford was known as Panhandle Christian College. After only a decade in operation, the college closed in 1911.

Regional Relations

A third factor that makes these three schools comparable is that they were located in what is essentially the same region. Whites who settled in Texas and Oklahoma were a nineteenth-century extension of a pattern of migration that began more than a century before. Around the year 1718, waves of migrants from northern Ireland and from the border regions of southern Scotland and the north of England began arriving at the ports of Newcastle, Delaware, and Philadelphia. Typically, these people, who represented a distinctive cultural type, moved past the cities of the American east coast to the wilderness of the western frontier. They were the white settlers of the backcountry, especially the lands that became the the American South [6] It would be hard to overestimate the significance of the size of this migration and its meaning for the future of the United States. For example, during the six decades leading up to the American Revolution, over 100,000 people from the province of Ulster in Northern Ireland alone had immigrated to British North America.[7]

Beyond the historic similarities between Texas and Oklahoma, one can say that far more than any other part of Texas, the Panhandle Plains region of the Lone Star state bears a close resemblance to Oklahoma. Historian Donald Worster takes note of this in his monumental study titled Dust Bowl. He observes that by the 1930s, especially in the area from Lubbock to Amarillo, "the cultural patterns were almost identical to those farther east." Worster mentions that this is not surprising because, for example,  in spite of the 100th meridian, the line dividing western Oklahoma from the Texas Panhandle, both sections were part of a regional cotton kingdom. He suggests that Woody Guthrie personifies this connection. Born in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1912, Woody "moved to Pampa, over in the Texas panhandle, in 1929 and remained there through the dust storms until he hitched a ride to California in 1937."[8]

Looking for links between Oklahoma and the high plains of Texas, students of Restoration history might point to R. W. Officer. At the turn of the twentieth century, Officer made his home in Atoka, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. But sometime after he buried his wife, Lota Venable Officer, he moved west to what is now Turkey, Texas in Hall County. He died and was buried at Turkey in 1930, having lived to the age of 85.


[1] John L. Morrison, "Education, Philosophy of," in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 292-94; M. Norvel Young, A History of Colleges Established and Controlled by Members of the Churches of Christ (Kansas City, MO: Old Paths Book Club, 1949), 25-33. Significantly, Young's entire section on the "Attitude of the Movement toward Education" is an overview of the attitudes of Alexander Campbell. For more on this topic, see also the fine essay by Thomas H. Olbricht, "Alexander Campbell as an Educator," in Lectures in Honor of the Alexander Campbell Bicentennial, 1788-1988 (Nashville: Disciples of Christ Historical Society, 1988), 79-100.

[2] Morrison, "Education."

[3] Alexander Campbell, "Remarks," Millennial Harbinger, 1836, 201.

[4] Alexander Campbell, "Address on Education," in Popular Lectures and Addresses (Philadelphia: James Challen & Son, 1863), 245.

[5] Leroy Garrett, "Campbell, Alexander," in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 120.

[6]  David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989). Fischer notes that the years 1718, 1729, 1741, 1755, 1767, and 1774 were peak periods. The decade from 1765 to 1775 witnessed two-thirds of the entire migration (605-08). For Texas and Oklahoma as two places where the descendants of these immigrants moved to during the nineteenth century, see 633-39.

[7] Patrick Griffin, The People with No Name: Ireland's Ulster Scots, America's Scots Irish, and the Creation of a British Atlantic World, 1689-1764 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), 1-8.

[8] Donald Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 61. Worster might have also mentioned that even before Woody Guthrie moved to Pampa, his father, Charlie, broken by tragedy, moved there first.